District 5 Alderman candidates Mark Gierl and Patrick Rochford faced off in front of a mostly student audience at Concordia University last Tuesday. Students led the forum and candidates answered a combination of prepared questions and questions from the audience. Highlights of their comments:
Rochford made the following points in his opening statement:
- The only growth in Mequon’s population of late has been increased student enrollment at Concordia, creating a need for more graduate student housing off campus, as well as an increase to the tax base in the city.
- He supports an intersection at I-43 and Highland Road, and
- Supports continued growth for Concordia
Mark Gierl’s opening comments included:
- The importance of public safety, noting his involvement with Block Watch in his neighborhood;
- He supports intelligent development
- Believes Concordia is the “key to the success of the city of Mequon”.
On what issues affect students and how to address them, the candidates responded as follows:
Gierl: Loves the campus, and doesn’t see many issues. He hires CUW students as interns and feels the campus is a positive environment, nestled and safe with good amenities.
Rochford: Acknowledges the need for nearby off-campus housing options and addressing what he terms a contentious relationship between the City and CUW, noting CUW is a “brain trust” in the community.
On the need for off-campus student housing:
Rochford: Using a map, he noted the City’s study of the North Port Washington Road neighborhood that identified areas east of Port Rd. appropriate for mixed residential housing. He said there have been studies done and its “time to make a move.”
Gierl: Acknowledged the lack of rental properties locally and shared a theme that came up several times during his comments, that CUW should talk to nearby residents first and get their input and support, rather than first going to the City and then to residents.
On why they are running for the election:
Rochford: Was bothered by issues about infrastructure and education and the lack of civility he saw in the process locally. He is also concerned about the exclusion of CUW.
Gierl: Feels strongly that the process now in place for getting things done is “backwards”. Rather than first going to City staff, he suggested going to residents first to get their input on a proposed change or development. His recommendation is to start with who is affected and move forward from there.
I-43/Highland Road Interchange:
Gierl: In his conversations with about 98% of residents of the 5th District, people seem to be split 50/50. Advantages include convenience, reduction of traffic on Port Washington Road, and help to local businesses. He also believes the interchange will have an effect on crime in the area. He noted that change and growth are inevitable, and wants to see the results of the WisDOT study which is being partially funded by the City before weighing in.
Rochford: Supports the interchange and said there is no data to support the notion that crime will increase. He also cited the importance of off-loading traffic from Port Washington Road. He noted cost for the project would be high and is also interested in hearing the results of the WisDOT study.
Both candidates support a proposal to consolidate the City’s dispatch system by merging with a county-wide effort, and both agreed that the city should encourage CUW students to stay in the community.